Memphis banks are stimulus conduits

Congress has made no secret of its unease with anything that remotely looks like a stimulus program to jolt the economy. Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury Dept. has made more than $1 billion available to 80 community banks as part of a small business jobs bill passed last year.

A few Memphis banks are getting a slice of that money that’s supposed to be used as loans to juice small business activity. Independent Bank is getting almost $35 million. Evolve Bancorp. is getting $4.7 million. Magna Bank is getting more than $18 million.

Will small businesses actually step up and offer to take some of that money? We’ll see. Over on the residential borrowing side of the picture, homeowners sure aren’t doing their own version of that dance. Rates are at 50-year lows, yet homeowners are still fearful of getting themselves tied up in a 15- or 30-year investment.

Small business owners have to worry about what isn’t there. If they get loans to buy equipment and expand because, say, the circus comes to town, that business will be rolling in clover at least for a little while serving the crowds of trapeze artists and elephant trainers and circus-goers. But when the circus leaves, that business has idle equipment and empty space that it really didn’t need to go after in the first place.

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